“The Shallows”

Why do I still cover my eyes like a baby at shark movies? I know when a shark is swimming to surface for lunch, and when the protagonist will see the shark swimming full speed underwater, and yet I’m still afraid of these cliches? That’s the sign of a shark movie done well.

“The Shallows” is “Jaws” meets “127 Hours,” and we’re introduced to Blake Lively’s young surfer, Nancy. She travels to a secret beach in Mexico to go surfing, but her plans are cut short  when she’s attacked by a great white shark and stranded on a rock. She’s left with only her wit and stop watch to survive, and a wounded bird for company while devising an escape plan.

The biggest surprise about “The Shallows” was Blake Lively’s nuanced performance as Nancy. From the moment she’s introduced, we see Nancy isn’t a stupid horror movie protagonist, but rather an intelligent and down-to-earth surfer, mourning her deceased mother. The writers carefully avoided making Nancy a cliche and kudos to them.

Lively’s interactions with the bird and tough words towards the shark keep the film’s entertainment level high, so it isn’t always unpleasant to watch. We see some gory images of her shark bite and other shark attacks, but these are restrained due to the PG-13 rating.

“The Shallows” also features gorgeous cinematography that belongs on the Discovery Channel, and some impressive visuals that give other shark movies a run for their money. I wanted to look away from a scene where we see the shark’s shadow emerge in the waves, but I couldn’t because I was wowed.

The biggest problem with shark movies, whether it’s a good one like “The Shallows” or a bad one like “Sharknado,” cliches are inevitable. We know from camera angles, pacing, and music when the terror will occur, and we know how the hero will prevail.

“The Shallows” is more character-based than horror-based, so I can still recommend this movie to “Jaws” fans.

Grade: B

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